Rick Santorum suspends presidential campaign; Mitt Romney likely nominee
04.10.12 | Detroit Free Press
April 10–WASHINGTON — Two months ago, it looked as though Rick Santorum might somehow pull off an upset. He was riding high in the polls, leading rival Mitt Romney, and he’d just completed a sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Feb. 7. In Romney’s birth state of Michigan, Santorum even took a lead in the polls.
It turned out to be the high water mark for the former U. S. senator from Pennsylvania’s upstart campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Santorum — who lost Michigan to Romney by just 3 percentage points in a hotly contested election Feb. 28 — suspended his campaign Tuesday, with an election looming in his own home state of Pennsylvania on April 24. Romney’s support in polls there have been on the increase, suggesting that it might be Santorum’s turn to face what could be an embarassing defeat.
The move gives Romney a clear path to be the party’s standard-bearer.
Santorum’s decision came after he huddled with his family over the weekend as his 3-year-old daughter Isabella, was hospitalized. The girl, whom the Santorum’s call Bella, has a genetic condition called Trisomy 18. Bella was released from the hospital on Monday.
“This was a time for prayer and thought,” said Santorum, who announced he was suspending his campaign at a stop in Gettysburg. According to media reports, Santorum phoned Romney to inform him of his decision, which he said means “this presidential race is over . . . for me. ”
“Sen. Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran,” Romney said in a statement released by his campaign. “He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation. We both recognize that what is most important is putting the failures of the last three years behind us and setting America back on the path to prosperity. ”
Two months ago — and ever since — -the two had been at each other’s throats on the campaign trail, with conservative voters in the South especially coalescing behind Santorum.
He was considered an also-ran in the then-crowded field leading into the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, which he won by a slim margin over Romney.
Many considered Santorum — a Roman Catholic best known politically for his staunch social conservativism and pro-life views — too far to the right to provide a viable challenge to President Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent. But for many voters who couldn’t bring themselves to support Romney, Santorum became the logical choice.
Following his wins in early February, Santorum shot up to a sudden lead in Michigan that some polls put in the double digits. Going on the offensive, Santorum hammered Romney as too moderate for the party and said the health care law he signed as governor of Massachusetts was too much like the one written by Obama and Democrats in Congress to be a winning point in the general election this fall.
Romney battled back, hitting Santorum for his record on spending in Congress and noting that he had endorsed Romney four years before.
After eking out a win in Michigan, where he was born, Romney went on to score key wins the following week on Super Tuesday, including in Ohio. Santorum’s campaign saw success in several southern states — he won 11 of the contests held so far. But he couldn’t spread that success to the industrial Midwest.
In recent weeks, Santorum has come under increasing pressure to leave the race, with Romney building what many considered an insurmountable lead in the race to 1,144 delegates, the number needed to secure the nomination at the convention in Tampa this August. But the calendar looked favorable to Santorum, with Pennsylvania on the horizon and some southern states — notably Texas, with its 155 delegates — scheduled for May.
“He’s taken so long to get out, at this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had kept going for a few weeks,” said Bill Ballenger, publisher of Lansing-based Inside Michigan Politics. “You just don’t know what goes on in somebody’s head making these decisions. ”
But with Romney cutting Santorum’s lead to single digits in Pennsylvania — and even leading him in some polls — the mometum, as well as the cash advantage, was clearly on Romney’s side.
“He was looking at the very real possibility of losing Pennsylvania and that would have been more devastating for him than Romney losing Michigan,” said Ballenger.